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Please consider that it is a great honor when an LGBTQ child gives a parent the truth about their identity. There are dozens of reasons they may keep silent, but uppermost are fear of losing their family/parents love, fear of the dangers they may encounter in society, and belief they will be ostracized or scorned by their church, community, or friends.
The main reasons they come out are a desire to live authentically, a wish to be honest with their families whom they may feel they are constantly deceiving, and exhaustion at sustaining an identity that is so alien to their hopes, dreams and desires. Often the moment of coming out is a crisis for them, sometimes because of the reaction of their family and sometimes because they are on the brink of suicide or self-harm. The response of parents and family to reach out to them in love and support is of incredible importance.
Parents and families have their own transition to go through and it can be hard. We have to change our views of the future, give up what may be cherished visions and dreams for our child’s life, and educate ourselves on a whole new world view. However, if you read the parent stories on our website they tell over and over that they are glad their child came out to them. Not that it was easy, but always that they would not go back.
Our whole website is dedicated to helping parents learn essential information, find their balance, understand the huge significance of their actions for the future of their child, and connect them to resources. Please explore what is here.
Janet DukeKeymasterJanuary 28, 2019 at 11:37 pm
It’s of first importance to educate yourself and learn all you can. A good early read is “Free Your Mind” on our Resources page, for essential basic background. There are numerous other books there as well as two excellent documentaries on our video page. Building understanding is key to helping your son over time.
It’s important even early on to demonstrate that you are an ally of LGBTQ, love him no matter what, and are comfortable talking with him about anything. He’s a long way from puberty, but most LGBTQ youth say they knew in early childhood they were LGBTQ. The exact style might emerge over time but their early sense was correct.
I would really encourage you to look at our pages about National Parents Coming Out Day that talk about ways to support your child. It begins with dozens of suggestions on how to be an ally even when your child is closeted — or in this case so young you are unsure. There are so many ideas I can’t restate them here, but they are all focused on opening the topic so you child can talk openly.
One of the most important things is to avoid silence about LGBTQ people, topics, or ideas. Silence always creates a sense of secrecy and can make topics seem taboo. The more you refer to LGBTQ events, people you know, someone you admire in the public eye, or see in movies, the easier it is for your son to talk openly with you.
We also have some excellent books on our Resources page. I highly recommend “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk”. This is a general parenting book and not specific to LGBTQ but it’s insights are invaluable.
Finally, while you may be able to support your son with encouragement and understanding, this is his journey. He will have to identify himself and counseling may help in the future. However, his bedrock will always be the love and acceptance of his family and that you can provide.
Thank you for reaching out to us.
It may help if you have other children and can apply similar rules about curfews and activities. Those can narrowly be applied to dates. If you don’t have other children, it may help to think of how you would handle rules if they were heterosexual and build dating guidelines from that perspective.
Sleepovers are a tough spot. Some families have a discussion of what is expected and feel that works, trusting their child not to abuse their trust. Others feel that’s asking for a lot of self-control from a young person and it’s better not to allow sleepovers with the sex they are attracted to. However, most parents still allow group activities such a scout troops, lock-ins, team overnights, etc. There is some risk but a frank discussion with and trust in your child are important. Remember that hetero kids push the boundaries and get in trouble at times. Try to keep your balance.
Don’t shy away from discussing sexual health and safety. Many studies show teens want sex safety information from their parents and LGBTQ youth are no exception. Talk about age appropriate behavior, the emotional vulnerability of adolescents (including them), the importance of keeping their focus on healthy relationships. Discussions on good and bad relationships can also be important. Help them sort through behaviors of others toward them, particularly if they are not being treated well or are not treating others well.
One additional question that often comes up is “should I tell the other child’s parents their child is LGBTQ?” The answer is an emphatic NO. Each child must find their own path to openness. In addition, it may not be safe for them to come out to their own family, or they may still be struggling with their identity. We hope this doesn’t happen but you may take heat from another parent later if they are shocked by the discovery. They may even blame your child for “making mine” different. Stay focused on supporting your child as a good person, their child as a good person, and both young people’s identity as an integral part of them that should be respected. You may not be able to change another parents mind, but you can model respect and acceptance.
Further, what you say about your own child must parallel their own degree of public openness. Bear this in mind: you don’t discuss any hetero child’s sexual preferences with the parents of teens they date. Your child deserves the same privacy.
Be sure to allow your child room for friends that are not romantic interests. Not every friend is someone they want to date.
Be prepared for some mis-steps — every teen has them and LGBTQ youth are no exception. But don’t let their LGBTQ identity cause over reaction by you or others.
You may find the young people are much more at ease with LGBTQ friends than some parents. That can be very helpful in refining your own perspective.
You may find some helpful books on our Resources page.
Keep loving and navigating as a family. From twenty years down the line I can tell you it’s worth all the effort! I hope you’ll have good communication with your adult child because of the effort and understanding invested now.
Janet DukeKeymasterJuly 2, 2017 at 1:10 pm
He may be working through his own feelings and just isn’t ready — but you can help open the door. Be positive about LGBT whenever there is an opportunity. For example, praise the talent or actions of a celebrity, speak positively about news around LGBT rights, talk about LGBT friends or acquaintances in a positive way, push back against negative comments. Hearing these things from you may help him feel more safe to confide in you.